Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Weekly Chain Reaction: January 14, 2009

The store where I pick up my comics had a flyer this week reassuring people that they were going to get their copy of That Spider-Man Comic, at cover price. It also said that subscribers had first dibs on the variant-cover edition for $ 10.00 – which, I guess, is a fair price, given that it’s reportedly a pretty rare commodity.

So, say what you will about the actual story, it’s certainly done its job in terms of drumming up interest in the comic.

* * *

The Amazing Spider-Man #583, by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson, et al. Okay: Who are you, and what have you done with Mark Waid? Like Mr. Waid’s previous two-parter, which had Spider-Man lead a group of survivors of a subway bombing to safety while under attack by super-villain the Shocker, this done-in-one story hits all the right notes. It’s a funny, heartfelt exploration of the friendship between Peter Parker and Betty Brant. Unfortunately, the book also has a five-page backup story. I wouldn’t have mentioned it, but they’re charging me an extra dollar for it, so it’s part of the package. It’s that “Spider-Man Meets Barack Obama” thing you might have heard about. And, well, it’s not good. It’s writer Zeb Wells trying to high-five Mr. Obama, basically, and messing it up. It’s very pronounced in its awfulness, and it drags the book down considerably.

(Marvel Comics, 27 pages, $ 3.99)

Grade: C-

* * *

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #1 (of 5), by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, et al. Straight away, I’m hooked. Three ominous guys in an underground waterway? Sign me up. They’re exploring a secret hideout that, it seems, was hastily abandoned decades ago. As they start rummaging through drawers and files, I can almost smell the musty air, hear that faint dripping that you always hear in those kinds of places. That, to a large degree, is thanks to Guy Davis’ skill with the pen. It’s my first issue of B.P.R.D., and it seems to be a perfectly solid series, as far as mystery and adventure stories are concerned. In the end, though, it can’t really hold my attention, because the characters remain a little flat; at no point does the story really work to endear any of them to me. Now, to be fair, this is really “number 52 in a series,” according to the small print in the inside cover, so what’s there on the page might mean more to regular readers than it does to me. And while the story doesn’t wholly convince me, Mr. Davis’ work certainly does give the book an edge over the competition. So maybe I’ll pick up a paperback sometime.

(Dark Horse Comics, 24 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C+

* * *

Captain Britain and MI13 #9, by Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, Mike Collins, et al. The bad news: Captain Britain’s escape from the magical realm that offers him a fantasy of “his heart’s desire” as soon as he thinks of it turns out to be a bit of a cop-out. I mean, he just finds a door. How lame is that? The good news: The rest of the comic is cool enough to make up for that, with change to spare. “STEP AWAY FROM THE PENSIONER,” Pete Wisdom advises the bad guy. He’s British, all right. He’s also a refreshingly non-conventional and interesting character in Mr. Cornell’s hands, as becomes very apparent in a couple of places throughout this story. You think he’s the typical, gruffy English bastard with a heart of gold? Think again. And those last two pages? Bloody hell. That’s the most ruthlessly efficient introduction of a villain I’ve seen in a while. It just keeps on topping itself when you think it can’t possibly get any better. If you like good superhero comics, you should be reading this.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B+

* * *

That’s it for the week’s capsule reviews. I’ve also got a review of Final Crisis #6 up, which I guess ended up more of a response to Jog (“I beg to differ,” he snarled) than I initially planned.

I also bought some more Steve Gerber comics this week. I think I did this because, when Doctor Strange waves the Thing goodbye on the first page of The Defenders #21, he says “Farewell – and may Oshtur travel at your side.” I have no idea who Oshtur is, but that’s pretty cool. I also threw in a couple of Gerber’s Sub-Mariner issues and that Zauriel thing he did for DC in 2006, so this may be turning into a thing.

No comments: